- Honor MLK with immigration policy that spurs economic mobility.
As we reflect on MLK’s life, it’s important to also acknowledge A. Philip Randolph, who was the lead organizer of the 1963 March on Washington which included Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I have a dream” speech. Randolph had a long history of advocating for immigration restrictions so as to advance the economic interests of Black Americans.
Serving as the nation’s leading labor organizer of Black workers, Randolph joined other Black leaders and publishers who rallied against the Great Wave of immigration. They knew that Black workers were being displaced by the new arrivals who, like today, would work for a mere pittance. Back in 1924, Randolph said “This country is suffering from immigrant indigestion. It is time to call a halt on this grand rush for American gold, which over-floods the labor market … The excessive immigration is against the interests of the masses of all races and nationalities in the country — both foreign and native.”
Randolph’s plea for a time-out on immigration was intended to help not only Black Americans, but all Americans, including foreigners who already were in the country. Like most Black leaders he opposed discrimination against immigrants in this country regardless of their origin.
In the decades following Randolph’s successful lobbying to tighten immigration, Black workers’ real wages rose almost twice as fast as the rapidly rising wages of White workers.
Tight labor conditions always have been good for Black Americans. What a fitting tribute to MLK Day if members of Congress would commit to making all immigration decisions based on how they will tighten — rather than loosen — the labor market.
Greg Raven, Apple Valley, CA